Eloy dedicates big HR to boy battling cancer

July 28th, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- In addition to giving the White Sox the lead, ’s three-run home run in the eighth inning of a 5-3 come-from-behind victory over the Royals on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium held an extra special meaning.

Jiménez dedicated the blast to Brady Nelson, a 12-year-old who is “kicking cancer’s butt,” according to a tweet from the White Sox. The moment came at the end of Jiménez’s joyous postgame Zoom session.

“Brady, that was for you,” Jiménez said. “I told you when I get back and I hit my first homer it was going to be for you. So, for you, my man. Get better.”

With runners on first and third, two outs and the White Sox trailing by one run, Jiménez stepped in against Royals reliever Kyle Zimmer. He was ready to announce his return as one of the game’s best middle-of-the-order power bats after missing the first 99 games of the season due to a ruptured left pectoral tendon.

“I was waiting for this moment for almost four months,” said Jiménez, flashing his broad smile.

This connection came on a 0-1 slider. It was Jiménez’s first home run this season, his first home run since Sept. 21, 2020, and his third career go-ahead blast in the eighth inning or later, but the first that turned a deficit into a lead.

The Statcast-estimated 459-foot shot into the left-center field fountains also followed an intentional walk to José Abreu called for by Royals manager Mike Matheny, which Jiménez and White Sox manager Tony La Russa both expected.

“If I’m Mike I have to make the same move,” La Russa said. “You have an RBI guy with almost 80 and he’s been taking serious at-bats for four or five months. That’s a legitimate home run, too.”

“Well, I was ready for the moment,” Jiménez said. “I was ready for that moment because I know José is a [RBI machine] so they don’t want to pitch to him because they think I was off time. But I was ready.”

Zimmer was trying to execute a slider down and away and felt as if it slipped out of his hand and “sort of gyro’d back.”

“It’s just really unfortunate that I just felt like that pitch just slipped out and he hit it out and it cost us the game,” Zimmer said. “They have a lot of talent and a lot of power in that lineup.

“You just got to go out and execute. Because if you don’t, you’re going to get hurt. And that’s what happened. It just sucks that one pitch can cost a game, and that’s what happened tonight. And it’s tough.”

Hit No. 1 this season for Jiménez opened up the second inning Tuesday when he singled to right after going 0-for-4 in his debut on Monday. He raised his red batting glove-clad hands in the air with a bit of a smile in celebration.

But until his prodigious clout in the eighth, this game was more about Jiménez’s defense than his offense.

“First of all, Eloy was the defensive star of the game,” La Russa said. “He played Gold Glove stuff out there with a Gold Glove throw.”

There were two slick running catches on Jiménez’s defensive highlight reel in left field, including a shoestring catch on Michael A. Taylor’s one-out line drive in the fourth with two runners on base. He also threw out Taylor at the plate by a good margin on a Nicky Lopez single to left, ending a two-run second off White Sox starter Dylan Cease. Jiménez made a nice short-hop pickup of Lopez’s single to start the play.

From a purely baseball perspective, the return of Jiménez from injury and the pending returns of center fielder Luis Robert and catcher Yasmani Grandal should be bigger than any Trade Deadline move made by general manager Rick Hahn and executive vice president Ken Williams by Friday. That’s not to say the front office won’t make moves, but it’s very difficult to top the pairing of Jiménez’s 40-homer potential in the middle of the lineup with Abreu.

“We tried not to think about it too much when he was gone. But that right there is why you miss that guy,” Cease said. “He's a home run threat at any point. He can put three runs, four runs on the board at any point.

“So it's nice to have him back. The personality's great, but I'll take three-run home runs over personality, to be honest. But I love his personality, too."